Pakistan seeks help as deadly floods threaten fragile economy

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Pakistan has appealed to international donors for help as unprecedented rains trigger a humanitarian crisis and threaten the economy of the South Asian nation.

Flash floods from heavy monsoon showers have killed 913 people since June and inundated crops across the country, according to Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman. She said thousands are now without shelter and food and the nation is short on relief goods.

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“This is a climate-induced humanitarian disaster of very epic proportion,” Rehman said at a press briefing in Islamabad.

The calamity comes as Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government is coping with one of Asia’s fastest inflation rates and attempting to end a dollar shortage.

The International Monetary Fund meets on Monday and is expected to resume a $6 billion loan program. Prime Minister Sharif returned on Thursday from Qatar, which plans to invest $3 billion in Pakistan’s fragile economy.

Flooding has damaged millions of acres of farmland, including cotton, said Rehman.

The country’s central bank said earlier this week that heavy rains could severely impact agricultural output. The regulator already expects economic growth to fall from 6 percent last year to 3 percent to 4 percent in the year starting in July.

Rehman said the death toll is rising, with the provinces of Sindh and Balochistan badly hit. Television footage shows people in flood-affected districts wading through water carrying their belongings on their heads.

Officials with the armed forces and National Disaster Management Authority are using boats and trucks to evacuate stranded people to higher ground while railways suspended some of its operations after the flood washed away rail tracks.

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